Clawing through constant sorrow
The Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Music Center, in rural Clintwood, Virginia, is on the stretch of U.S. 23 known as “The Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.” But you don’t need to travel to the land of bluegrass music to hear Stanley himself. The “doctor” (he received an honorary degree from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee in 1976) is still performing at 83 and comes to Santa Fe with his band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, hitting the banjo and wailing in his inimitable style, on Thursday, July 8.
Stanley was surprised when he won a Grammy Award for Best Country Male Vocalist in 2002 for his a cappella performance of “O Death” on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. He was probably also surprised that the singer in this loose, Depression-era retelling of Homer’s Odyssey was dressed in a hooded gown, presiding over a Ku Klux Klan lynching, complete with choreographed bonfires, gallows, and ritual marching.